Sony’s Afeela Car: A Future of Distractions and Unwanted Advertising?

Is Sony’s new car Afeela innovative or invasive?

Summary (TL;DR)

Sony’s new electric car brand, Afeela, promises features focused on entertainment, communication, and social interaction. A notable aspect is the “Media Bar”, a display between the headlights that can show information and advertisements to people outside the vehicle. This raises concerns about driver distraction, data privacy, and the intrusive nature of ads in a personal vehicle. The Media Bar seems like an unnecessary feature that could potentially compromise safety and increase the vehicle’s cost.

Watching Sony’s presentation at CES 2023, I listened patiently as Yasuhide Mizuno spoke about the company’s vision for the future of mobility. He discussed the three “A’s” of autonomy, augmentation, and affinity, which he said would revolutionize the way people move. Autonomy would provide a new way to experience mobility, with an emphasis on safety and security. Augmentation would transform the mobility space into a moving entertainment space, while affinity would involve harmonizing with people and contributing to society.

Mizuno then introduced a prototype for Afeela, a new electric car brand that is set to be released in 2026, with pre-orders available in 2025. As the car was unveiled, I was struck by its appearance. Mizuno went on to explain some features of the car, including the Media Bar, which “allows the vehicle to interact with the people, expressing itself by sharing various types of information to people around it.”

It was at this point that I noticed something disturbing: the car was displaying an advertisement for Spider-Man: No Way Home on its front. As you are driving, the car can show ads and other media to people around you. It’s not hard to see the potential for making a lot of money with this feature.

I have concerns:

  • Do we need more distractions on the street while we are driving? While there may be a time in the future when cars will drive themselves, we aren’t there yet. Is it wise to show media in-between the headlights?
  • Can the Media Bar be hacked? Who has access to the data collected from showing the ads, such as location data? There are 45 sensors on the car placed 360 degrees around the car. What data are they collecting? Can the owner opt out from using the Media Bar?
  • Cars are already expensive. Who pays for the ads being served? What internet service is displaying the ads? Will the battery be worn down quicker because of the additional, and unnecessary, Media Bar?

As a consumer, I struggle to understand why I would want this feature. While the CTO of Epic Games, Kim Libereri, sees the car as a “next-generation destination for social connectivity,” I just want a reliable and safe mode of transportation. I’m not interested in living in my car or helping to advertise products. I’ll be keeping an eye on this development to see if other car brands adopt similar features. This is a future I’m not looking forward to.

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